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Select the Right Window Coverings

Copyright (c) 2008-2023

There are many factors that contribute to selecting the right covering for your window. The main functional reasons to install window coverings are light control and privacy. Additional factors include durability, life expectancy, cleaning, versatility, formality, attractiveness, safety, and price.

Light Control

The most difficult functional factor to control is light, and most window coverings fall in one of five categories:

  • Transparent - Clear, without obstruction
  • Translucent - Diffused light, preventing perception of distinct images
  • Filtered - Muted light in bright conditions
  • Semi-Opaque - Surfaces impenetrable by light, yet allows some light through gaps
  • Opaque (or Black-Out) - Blocks all light

    Transparent describes an open window with clear glass. Few windows are left completely open unless the building is in a private setting with foliage or an overhang that block direct sunlight.

    Translucent describes a window covering that is sheer or with components that are spaced for privacy. Included in this category are light fabric drapes and bamboo shades.

    Filtered window coverings allow subtle transmissions of light. This grade includes medium fabric drapes and most mini-blinds.

    Semi-opaque defines window coverings that almost block all light, allowing some light into the room through narrow gaps or along the edges. Shutters are a prime example of window coverings in this category.

    Opaque (or black-out) window coverings block out all light. Few coverings can completely prevent direct sunlight from penetrating the window. Some roll shades on the market claim to be able to block all light.

    Intense or direct sunlight can be difficult visually, fade carpet and furniture, and contribute to unwanted heat in warm months. Closed blinds, drapes, or shutters can significantly reduce the affects of all of these annoyances. Often, sunlight is a welcome addition to the home. It can brighten dark interiors and help heat a house on cold winter days. A successful window treatment will convert most of the window to be transparent when desired. Many window coverings can open to allow a view of 80% or more through the window. Most window coverings are easy to use and can transform from an open to a closed position without much effort.


    Privacy can be easily achieved with almost any window covering. The window treatment simply needs to be translucent or better to diffuse distinct images. Even frosted glass or glass block can give adequate levels of privacy.

    Durability and Expected Life

    By nature, a window opening is a harsh environment subject to direct sunlight, humidity, and fluctuating temperatures. Accompany these factors with frequent use and it is easy to understand why window coverings need to be well constructed. The overall life expectancy is usually less for fabric window treatment that can fade over time. Solid window coverings, such as shutters, have an extensive life expectancy.


    All window coverings will collect dust and dirt. Fabrics are the most difficult to clean and are the most subject to stains. Furniture-quality window coverings will generally wipe clean with a light solution.

    Versatility and Formality

    Some window coverings work well in formal environments and others work best in casual living situations. Alternate window coverings are versatile and blend well with almost any room.

    Style and Overall Attractiveness

    A particular window cover might meet all of the functional needs, but if it is not attractive, there is no reason to proceed. Today's window fashions come in thousands of colors and patterns, providing a number of options for any decor.


    Small children in the home can, and will, have contact with window coverings. Some treatments have cords to raise or lower for visibility. These could become a considerable hazard if they are within reach.

    Window Design

    Window configuration can limit the number of window coverings that can be used in a particular space. Shallow windows, trim molding with larger corner blocks, and bay (or bow) windows usually require special installations.


    While there is a large discrepancy in the cost of window coverings, it is important to weigh the overall value. The term value is overused in this consumer marketing society, but when purchasing long-term household items it is necessary to consider the return on investment. Window coverings on the low end of the price spectrum generally have a short life expectancy and low durability. Higher priced window coverings, like shutters, are designed to last the life of the home and retain its original character. Although more expensive, they will not need to be replaced.

    Listed are the positives and negatives of some of the most popular window treatments.

    Metal Mini-Blinds $ - $$

  • Large number of colors from which to choose to match home
  • Easy to measure for and install
  • Retractable for unobstructed view - Can be easy to bend or dent which lends to short expected life - Average ability to block sunlight - Dangling cords and tilt wand - Difficult to clean individual slats

    Roller Shades $ - $$

  • Retractable for unobstructed view
  • Clean look
  • Some shades are thick and block light very well - Some shades translucent, allowing a lot of light to penetrate through the shade - Some shades may look really cheap

    Wood Blinds $$

  • Available in painted and stained finishes
  • Blend well with shutters in the same home
  • Several louver sizes
  • Easy to measure for and install
  • Retractable for unobstructed view - May not be able to span across wide windows - Generally less formal than other window coverings - Medium life expectancy - Dangling cords and tilt wand

    Vertical Blinds $$

  • Ability to cover tall window or door openings - Difficult to keep uniform - Hard to block direct sunlight

    Woven Shades $$

  • Easy and quick to install
  • Can contribute to a casual or rustic decor
  • Available in a number of materials (woods, grasses, fabrics) and finishes - Translucent, allowing a lot of light to penetrate through the shade - Dangling adjustment cords

    Honeycomb and Pleated Shades $$ - $$$

  • Some styles block light very well
  • Some styles can open from the top or bottom
  • Retractable for unobstructed view
  • Soft appearance - Dangling adjustment cords

    Roman Shades $$ - $$$

  • Mostly retractable for unobstructed view
  • Softens room appearance
  • Some styles can open from the top or bottom
  • Some shades are thick and block light very well
  • Many patterns available - Some shades translucent, allowing a lot of light to penetrate through the shade - Can fade over time - Collect dust and difficult to clean

    Curtains and Drapes $$$ - $$$$

  • Custom curtains can match fabric in a room
  • Thicker curtains can block light very well
  • Can be a very formal or very casual window covering
  • Softens room appearance - Will fade over time - Collect dust and difficult to clean

    Shutters $$$ - $$$$

  • Extensive life expectancy
  • Most durable window covering available
  • Can open louvers or panels for light and/or visibility
  • Unlimited paint and stain color options
  • According to the IRS, the only window treatment considered a capital home improvement
  • Can be installed in a number of panel configurations
  • Many louver sizes available
  • Can have a very strong formal appearance
  • Only furniture-quality window treatment - May be more difficult to install - For best fit must be custom made

    About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
    With over 20 years of experience, Brian is a contributing writer for All About Window Shutters. He manages four web sites that sell interior and exterior shutters online. Horizon Shutters offers custom made interior wood shutters. ShutterLand sells both stock size unfinished wood interior shutter, and solid cedar exterior shutters. Ready Shutters distributes louvered, board-n-batten, raised panel, shaker, and arch top vinyl outside shutters. Each company has full telephone support. All shutters are made in the United States and shipped nationwide to homeowners.

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